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Peace & Justice

Vatican official: Water access a right for all


VATICAN CITY -- Reasonable access to clean water is a fundamental human right and its distribution should not be left solely to private companies seeking profit, a top Vatican official said.

Bishop Mario Toso, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, told participants at a meeting regarding the future of water supplies around the world that water is not a commercial product but rather a common good that belongs to everyone.

People have a "universal and inalienable right" to access, a right that is so fundamental that "governments cannot leave its management solely in private hands," he said.

Bishop Toso made his remarks at an international meeting near the Vatican called "Dammi da bere" (give me something to drink), promoted by the Catholic-inspired Italian environmental association Greenaccord.

Bishop Toso cited Colombia, Philippines and Ghana as examples of countries where water management "inspired exclusively by private and economic criteria" has failed to produce adequate distribution for the population and where water costs three to six times that of large cities such as New York or London.

Bishops criticize Obama on marriage law


WASHINGTON -- The U.S. bishops' Office of General Counsel said the Obama administration's decision to no longer support the Defense of Marriage Act in legal challenges ahead "represents an abdication" of its "constitutional obligation to ensure that laws of the United States are faithfully executed."

"Marriage has been understood for millennia and across cultures as the union of one man and one woman," the office said in a statement issued Feb. 23 after President Barack Obama instructed the Justice Department to stop defending the federal law passed by Congress and signed into law in 1996 by President Bill Clinton.

The Defense of Marriage Act says the federal government defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman and that no state must recognize a same-sex marriage from another state.

"The principal basis for today's decision is that the president considers the law a form of impermissible sexual orientation discrimination," the Office of General Counsel said.

Feds: College can't dodge union organizing


RYE, N.Y. -- A contested decision by the National Labor Relations Board that Manhattan College does not hold itself out as a religious institution has paved the way for adjunct faculty to organize a union at the 158-year-old Bronx college founded by the Lasallian Brothers of the Christian Schools.

The Jan. 10 decision by Elbert F. Tellem, acting regional director of the NLRB, concluded that the college has a secular purpose. Because adjunct faculty are not required to advance a religious mission, Tellem said exercising NLRB jurisdiction will not lead to an "unconstitutional entanglement" of government and religion.

He later directed that mail ballots to measure support for creating a union be sent to adjunct faculty Feb. 16 and counted March 3.

Brennan O'Donnell, president of the college, located in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, told Catholic News Service: "We vehemently object to the characterization of us as not holding ourselves out as a religious institution."

Curran: Abortion debate must consider 'freedom of the person'


In the Nov. 26, 2010 issue of NCR, we published a talk -- "US Catholic Bishops and Abortion Legislation: A Critique from Within the Church" -- given by Fr. Charles E. Curran, Professor of Human Values at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

Yesterday, Fr. John Yockey, a Wisconsin pastor who taught moral theology as an assistant professor at the Washington Theological Union from 1983-1992, responded to Curran’s remarks -- saying that current abortion law "condones an atrocity."

Below we have a response from Curran to Yockey's criticisms, in which Curran touches on his belief that the freedom of the individual person and the feasibility of anti-abortion legislation should have more consideration in the debate.


I thank John Yockey for his response that combines courtesy and respect with his disagreement. Would that all our discussions within the Catholic Church could be carried on in the same spirit.

Abortion law 'condones an atrocity,' says theologian


In the Nov. 26, 2010 issue of NCR, we published a talk -- "US Catholic Bishops and Abortion Legislation: A Critique from Within the Church" -- given by Fr. Charles E. Curran, Professor of Human Values at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

In his talk, Curran upheld official church teachings on abortion, but was critical of the way the U.S. bishops have handled the matter as a political issue. Following publication of the talk, Fr. John Yockey, a Wisconsin pastor who taught moral theology as an assistant professor at the Washington Theological Union from 1983-1992, asked to respond to Curran’s remarks.

Expert: If CIA agent in Pakistan not diplomat, not immune


News that Raymond Davis, the American who sparked a diplomatic crisis between the U.S. and Pakistan by shooting two men dead in the city of Lahore last month, was working for the CIA means U.S. claims that he is a diplomat with immunity have “no basis,” says one expert.

The revelation also raises questions about how Pakistanis will tolerate the continued American military presence in their country in the midst of unmanned drone attacks and with U.S. troops scheduled to withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014, say others.

Wisc. archbishop: Don't suspend workers' rights


MILWAUKEE -- Quoting Popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II, Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki issued a statement Feb. 16 that came down squarely in favor of workers' rights in the face of efforts by Wisconsin's new governor to restrict those rights.

"Hard times do not nullify the moral obligation each of us has to respect the legitimate rights of workers," Archbishop Listecki said.

"Every union, like every other economic actor, is called to work for the common good, to make sacrifices when required, and to adjust to new economic realities," he said.

"However, it is equally a mistake to marginalize or dismiss unions as impediments to economic growth."

Archbishop Listecki was responding to efforts by new Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, to push through measures restricting the rights of unions in a special session of the state legislature.

Green Bay Bishop reinstates CCHD collection


GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay has reinstated the collection for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development in his diocese and established a new diocesan commission that will be in charge of teaching about and implementing Catholic social teaching.

In a 2,100-word statement announcing the developments Feb. 16, Bishop Ricken said he was "confident that we have the necessary checks in place" to ensure that CCHD funding would not be used in ways that conflict with Catholic teaching.

He had suspended the CCHD collection in his diocese last year but said it would resume the weekend of April 2 as part of the "collection for the world's poor" in parishes of the Green Bay Diocese.

Bishop Ricken acknowledged in his statement that "for some time in this country there has been significant disagreement among people of good will" about the collection for CCHD, the U.S. bishops' domestic anti-poverty program, which funds self-help projects in low-income communities around the country.

Carr: Cutting social programs has moral costs


WASHINGTON -- The U.S. bishops' point-man on poverty and justice issues reminded Catholic social ministry leaders that when they met last year, a blizzard enveloped the nation's capital.

There's no snow on the ground this year, John Carr said, but the annual Catholic Social Ministry Gathering is meeting in the midst of another storm: elected politicians ready to turn their backs on the poor.

Carr, executive director of the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development at the U.S. Catholic bishops' conference, addressed the 2011 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington, a four-day annual gathering of more than 300 social ministry workers from around the country.



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